The other day an older gentleman came into the visitor center. He carefully studied the exhibits, excitedly attended the ranger program, politely asked to see the park film, and inundated us with insightful and intelligent questions. His eyes were bright with wonder and curiosity, and he told us over and over again, with the kindest smile, how grateful he was for this protected place, and how wonderful we all were to be working for this cause.
And then with wide, hopeful eyes, he asked us how much of the park he would really be able to see.
We smiled at him, and lied.
We told him he could see almost everything from the three, handicap-accessible overlooks in the park. We told him he didn’t need to go on the trail to truly experience the place. We told him the backcountry wasn’t magical, wasn’t a big deal at all really. And as his smile grew bigger and his eyes excited, none of us regretted our lies.
He waved merrily as his wife pushed his wheelchair out the front door, and exclaimed what we all knew very well: that this was the most beautiful place he had ever seen, maybe even the most beautiful place in the world.
I then excused myself to the back room, and did everything I could not to cry.